About Population Health
Community health is a discipline which concerns itself with the study and improvement of the health characteristics of biological communities, influenced by a wide array of socio-demographic characteristics, relevant variables ranging from the proportion of residents of a given age group to the overall life expectancy of the neighborhood/community. Medical interventions aimed at improving the health of a community range from improving access to medical care to public health communications campaigns. Research focuses on how the built and natural environments and socioeconomic status affect health.
Population health has been defined as “the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.” It is an approach to health that aims to improve the health of an entire human population. A priority considered important in achieving this aim is to reduce health inequities or disparities among different population groups due to, among other factors, the social determinants of health: social, environmental, cultural, and physical; determinants that different populations are born into, grow into, and function within, which potentially have a measurable impact on the health of human populations. This concept represents a change in the focus from the individual, characteristic of mainstream medicine, and complements classic efforts of public health agencies by addressing a broader range of factors shown to impact the health of different populations. The World Health Organization’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health reported in 2008 that social determinants were responsible for the bulk of diseases and injuries, the major cause of health inequities in all countries. In the United States, social determinants account for 70 percent of avoidable mortality. Population health is not simply a state free of disease but the capacity of people to adapt to, respond to, or control life’s challenges and changes. The World Health Organization definition: “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
These two concepts offer a range of topics that are generally not covered in mainstream news media, which focus on current, controversial health policy topics, new medical/health techniques offered by health systems, or popular health information topics. Seldom will journalists venture into the areas of population health and community health topics. The Kaiser Health News Service, an independent news service sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation, offers a national perspective. Locally, the news media may cover topics that would fall in the category of population health, but nothing on a sustained basis, and usually limited in scope.
The Detroit Wayne County Health Authority is a convener and consensus building by virtue of its mission. Its role, and governance structure, limits its ability to take positions. While it welcomes community health and social advocates in its deliberations, and its Board of Directors may pass resolutions on select issues, generally, the Health Authority does not function as an advocate. It provides staff support for successful collaborations, such as the MOTION Coalition and Population Health Council. It employs social media to share perspectives on health policy issues as well as activities it is involved with, as its newsletter offers updates on activities undertaken by the Health Authority. And occasionally, Health Authority leadership will offer a commentary in a local newspaper.
Population Health, as ongoing blog, represents the observations and opinions of individuals who are connected with the Health Authority through the Population Health Council, its extended constituents, and guest bloggers. Population Health serves as a platform for sharing perspectives on the population health field, and it’s hoped will generate discussion around these topics.
Population Health is published as content is developed, but at least twice monthly. General editorial guidelines require that topics presented are relevant to the Health Authority’s core mission of ensuring access to health for all people, and its vision for population health enhancement.
Content topics are drawn from various subject areas:
- Health indicators as identified by the county health rankings
- Primary care workforce development in the safety net
- Community needs assessment and action plans
- Community health initiatives/communication campaigns sponsored by MDCH or local health agencies
- Community-based health services
- Environmental health issues
- Food distribution/food justice/solutions
- Health equity
- Maternal and child health among vulnerable populations
- Older adult population in under served areas
- Innovation in safety net delivery systems
- Public health and community health academic/research topics
- School-based health issues/initiatives
- Healthy development standards/purpose-built communities
- Community-specific focus (example: Downriver Delta communities, zip code areas of disease prevalence)
- Population-specific focus (example: age-specific, disease-specific)
- Kaiser Health News
- Commentary on relevant news media articles/commentaries